“Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God” (2 Corinthians 6:3–4, KJV)
In 1973, I went through the Army Ranger training at Fort Benning Georgia. In order to graduate the course, we had to run an obstacle course called the Darby Queen. It was reported to be two-miles long and along the way there were a series of obstacles that the Ranger candidates had to negotiate. Yes, it was a grueling test of endurance, strength, and agility. Anyone who could not satisfactorily complete the obstacle course within the required time could not move on to the remainder of the training needed for graduation.
Obstacles are many in life. They are things that impede progress. They get in the way of accomplishing the achievements for which we strive. Paul and his team endeavored to make sure they would never never place any obstacle in the way of the progress of the gospel message. In these verses, the word “offence” is the Greek, proskope, which refers to a stumbling (Thayer 159). The ESV translates the word as “obstacle.”
Paul went on to describe the things he and the team endured and their manner of conduct so they would never put any obstacle in the way of the gospel. When you read through the list (v4-10), one might be surprised to see that Paul included descriptions of the many hardships with which they struggled. In the list we see great mistreatments, sleepless nights, and hunger among other things. In summary, they experienced many afflictions and lived in meager ways (v4-5). Rather than these hardships being a hindrance to people receiving the gospel, they were in fact powerful affirmations of the truth of the message.
Paul then presented their manner of conduct in the ministry of the gospel. “By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). Here we see that Paul and his team ministered by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, displaying the fruit of the Spirit in their conduct. Thus, by their conduct, as led by the Spirit, never would put an obstacle to the gospel.
Last, Paul spoke of the power of God to sustain them amid their many great hardships (v8-10). Here he presented a series of contrasts. These contrasted the afflictions they endured with the power of God’s grace to sustain them. The hardships were not obstacles to the gospel. They displayed the power of God’s sustaining grace and affirmed the truth of the message.
Today, many ministers are perhaps unknowingly placing obstacles in the way of the gospel. Many live in lavish lifestyles and lead people to believe that the true message is that of material and physical blessing in this life. Their message sounds good to the hearer and their lifestyles seem to affirm their message. However, this was not the message or lifestyle of Paul and his team. This demonstrates the contrast of two systems, that of the kingdom of God and the world system. It is a contrast between the truth and the lie. It is a contrast between the message of eternal blessing and that of temporal pleasure. It is the contrast of removing all obstacles or placing huge barricades in the way of the truth.